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Residential Design and Commercial Design: Understanding the Difference

The field of interior design can be divided and subdivided into various different categories, focuses, and specializations. The biggest and most obvious distinction is between residential and commercial interior design.  While most designers work in both areas of design, many also specialize in one. Understanding what each field of interior design encompasses is really interesting and we thought you might enjoy a comparison of the two.

Residential Interior Design

In this type of interior design, a designer plans and designs spaces in residential homes. Often, a designer who primarily works in homes will specialize in a particular part of residential design. It is common for designers to specialize in kitchens, bathrooms, home offices and custom furniture and home appliance design. Many people want their homes to be extensions of themselves and expressions of personal individuality. So, while this type of interior design may seem much less limited than commercial design, you can see that it takes just as much creativity and innovation!

Interior design projects may involve planning a totally new construction, renovating an existing space, or working in historic renovation. A residential designer's job is not limited to selecting a space's paint color and furnishings. Often, a designer will have a large hand in architectural elements as well. This can include working with the addition or elimination of entire walls, ceiling designs, flooring and floor design, trim work, window locations, window designs, lighting, technology needs, organizational tools, appliances and the list continues!

Commercial Interior Design

In this type of interior design, a designer plans and designs spaces in commercial spaces and businesses.  This branch of interior design is vast and broad.  Just think about it.  Everywhere you go has been created and presented according to a design plan - whether it be professional or not.  Everywhere!  A regal and sophisticated bank, a cheerful and stimulating pre-school, a swanky and posh champagne lounge, a wholesome and spacious grocery store, and even your favorite theme park are all places where you can find the work of a commercial interior designer!

Thus there are numerous specialization areas associated with commercial design.  Designers specializing in entertainment work on movies, television, theaters, clubs, theme park, and arena projects. Commercial designers focused on governmental projects work on schools, fire and police stations, libraries, courts, museums, public transportation terminals and other government buildings. Health Care design specialists design hospitals, nursing homes, examination rooms and waiting rooms. Focusing on hospitality and luxury, some commercial designers work on bars, restaurants, hotels, country clubs, cruise ships, and major conference areas. 

Of course, some commercial designers specialize in office design and work to create work spaces that are fully utilized but that also create a productive and appealing work environment. There are also designers concentrated on retail and store design.  This group of commercial designers works on shopping malls, department stores, boutiques, and any other retail venues.

Schools to consider: